Culture, community and partnership

It has certainly been a whirlwind of a term thus far, and the coming weeks promise to continue in the same vein. I have had the great pleasure of being part of numerous events in the past few weeks, including being on the interview panel for the 2020 School Captains, attending Assemblies and Chapel services and, most recently, the Middle School Celebration Evening. Most importantly, I have had the great privilege of working alongside and getting know key people in the Middle School, including the impressive pastoral care staff and, of course, our students and parents. Carey’s community is so fortunate to have a parent body who is deeply invested in the life of the School and its programs and we recognise and appreciate this. When you ask a student at Carey, ‘What is it that makes Carey so special?’, they will inevitably offer a response that references the culture and sense of community.

While the word ‘culture’ is hard to define and can easily be overused, or sound trite, it cannot be denied that the culture at Carey is unique, particularly the culture in the Middle School. Each group makes up an intrinsic part of the whole, from the incoming cohort of Year 7s who have been doing their Orientation Program, to the Year 9s who are currently engaged in three weeks of programs. Each of these groups has their own perspective on what it means to be a student at Carey, what they want their school experience to be and their place in the world. It is our job, as the teachers and parents of these students, to help shape these perspectives, such that they align with the values we want them to hold and, importantly, the attitudes and behaviours we want them to exhibit.

Unfortunately, this is often easier in theory than in practice. These young people live in a world that is largely foreign to many of us; where seamlessly moving between apps on their iPhones and the ability to simultaneously flick between ‘TikTok’, ClassE and attending to their Snapchat ‘streaks’ is as ingrained in them as inserting a VHS tape into the VCR player was to us. Now more than ever, with increased distractions and threats that we do not necessarily have a full understanding of, our young people need us. They need us to guide them, to set clear expectations for them, and for us to ensure that both home and school provide a space for them where there is predictability and stability.

Young people need boundaries in order to feel safe, and it is our responsibility to not only enforce these boundaries, but to also have open and restorative conversations when, inevitably, these boundaries are crossed. Pivotal to this is working in partnership with our parent body, whom we rely on to reinforce our messages and support us in our management of student issues. Healthy partnership with our parent body builds trust and increases our capacity to better nurture and protect our shared currency – the wellbeing of our young people. It provides the conduit for the healthy exchange of information and ensures that our young people are hearing consistent messages about the kinds of people we want them to be and how they might become them.

As we head into the final weeks of school and pressures mount, it is natural for students to feel tense and uncertain. Anxiety about assessment tasks, or changes in class groupings and subjects next year may increase, and this may manifest in some testing behaviours. Please be transparent with your children about where the boundaries are; from the seemingly small to the glaringly obvious, our students need to know that the parameters are set, and whilst they may push against them, they will be guided towards making the right choices. There are many exciting events on the calendar in the coming weeks and we want all students to enjoy the full experience of these and continue to contribute to our community, and to our culture, in a meaningful and positive way.

Georgie Jones
Deputy Head of Middle School – Student Wellbeing